WDW, Coronado Springs, Living Colour

posted by Jeff | Monday, July 3, 2023, 1:00 PM | comments: 0

In March, Disney alerted me to a room discount around the Walt Disney World Resort hotels. Maybe I just wasn't paying attention, but I couldn't recall one of these since prior to the pandemic. We like to do a little on-property resort experience every other year, because it certainly doesn't require airfare, and it is a different experience to visit without driving. The price promotion, as I've said for years, is an indication that the projected attendance is not likely as high as they would prefer. As I've always said, if you want to know how crowded the parks will be, look at the hotel rates. So I booked the weekend. The motive was overloaded. Living Colour was playing Epcot, and it also happened to be the weekend of my birthday. That birthday, a half-century in. I still can't say the number.

I took Friday off, and to my surprise, the electronic check-in meant that our room was ready before 9am. I wasn't awake then, but my do-not-disturb was over on a weekday, so I got the text and it woke me up. I slept for another hour, and did stuff. We all took our time packing and getting lunch, and finally got into the car around 12:45. Disney's no-check-in check-in is solid. You don't have to go to the front desk, you just see that your room is ready, and open the room either with the app or your MagicBand (which are no longer included, I should add). No sooner did we arrive than Simon realized that he didn't pack his swim clothes. This really frustrated me, because we're trying to delegate more responsibility to him, and it was no mystery that packing should include that stuff. But we were able to get home and back in about 30 minutes, so that's not the worst thing. It was still a bad omen.

Shortly after dropping off our stuff, we hopped on a Disney bus to Epcot. First order of business was to get Simon some lunch, since he didn't have anything at home. He likes to get a kid cheeseburger at Connections Cafe, which was also carrying an elderflower/St. Germaine beverage I like for the Flower & Garden Festival, so hardly a difficult stop. No sooner did I fetch Simon's lunch (can't understand why more people don't pre-order on mobile), but I discovered that Diana and Simon had rendezvoused with my buddy Ken from DC, who had secretly been planning to come down for my birthday since early this year. This is the same guy who acquired my Big Bad Wolf wheel from BGW back in the day. He even played the "wish I could be there" card on the socials. Well done! He joined me the last time that Living Colour played Epcot, pre-pandemic, and like me, was determined not to miss them this time.

Ken scored a virtual queue position for Guardians, as we did, and the guest services team had no problem aligning his time with ours. They also put him in our disability access pass. Simon still doesn't do well with queues, especially the noisy ones, so we still use this. With Guardians, he also doesn't care for the pre-show, with the flashing lights and noise, something that I can also empathize for. But he holds his ears, and closes his eyes and gets through it. And that was Ken's first ride on the best attraction at Walt Disney World. Song was "Disco Inferno," though we were hoping for "Everybody Wants To Rule The World," given our meetup in Cleveland last year to see Tears For Fears.

By the time that was done, it was already after 3, and the first Living Colour show was at 5:30. First we went to Remy, another first-time for Ken, then we stopped into Morocco, where the epic kabobs are now a part of every festival, and that little spot in the back sells sangria by the pair. I don't know what's going on with Morocco, but Restaurant Marrakesh has been closed for years, yet they still show it on the web site. The retail has been closed as well. But Tangierine Cafe, the counter service, and the band have been active still. They're also doing henna in the back, and there's always a line for it.

While Diana and Simon went to do other things, Ken and I landed in the first of three shows, and it was pretty well attended. The other two shows would be too. The first was a range of their material. The second was mostly stuff from Stain and Time's Up, while the third was almost entirely Vivid tracks. As Corey Glover, the singer, pointed out in the first set, they are "contractually obligated" to do "Cult of Personality" each set. But as the night went on, clearly they could lean into that, as it was the thing that got the crowd on their feet, making it less "weird," as he said almost every show. The highlight on this first night was a version of "Open Letter" that was a lesson in how to take the start of a hard rock song and make it sound like gospel. The album version does this to an extent, but they went further here. And if there was any doubt about how all-pro they were, Glover did his gospel runs while a roadie replaced his apparently failing monitors.

After all three shows ended, we first stopped at the UK fish-and-chips counter for just the chips, which are under five bucks and frankly an extraordinary value. From there, we went next door to the Rose & Crown, just before they closed, to score Pimm's & Ginger. It was incredibly delicious.

After that, we ducked out the back entrance to Boardwalk, where we would find uncrowded restrooms and a bus to Disney Springs. We landed in Jock's Hangar Bar, the Indiana Jones themed joint. The bartenders remarked that they had quite the day, given the debut of the new movie. Apparently, the cosplayers were out in force, which surprised me because I didn't know that Indiana Jones cosplay was even a thing! I had their take on a dark and stormy, and got a giant pretzel that was essentially a charcuterie board. Fortunately, I was going home to a darling wife that enjoys cured meats.

The night was a bit of a disaster, and frankly it would partially derail the next day. Our neighbors at Coronado were total assholes, playing loud music, dropping F-bombs, and more than anything upsetting Simon. Diana knocked on their door, and they appeared to be pretty high (they'll love the room charge for smoking in the room). They didn't adjust at all. I had already called security, but no corrective action had been taken. Adrenaline pumping and pissed off, I decided I was going to visit the front desk, which is no small trip at that resort, and ask that they move us. As soon as I exited the room, I found a security officer hanging out in front of our door. I asked him what he was doing, and he said he listened at the door and contacted his shift manager. So basically, he didn't do anything at all.

When I arrived at the desk, in the immaculate tower, I encountered two people hanging out, iPads in hand. Disney in the broad sense, including at the cruise line, has tried to get people out from behind counters, so this was normal. The long walk gave me a few moments to relax a bit, so I was not hostile toward them. They had already seen the communications "traffic" about my complaint, and almost simultaneously called the room about moving us, no doubt because of my dissatisfaction with the security officer's inaction. They were already putting us in another room, which was not a "water view" (read: obstructed by a wall where the pool is, but that's what the online offer was), which resulted in a credit given the change in room type. Although it was only for the second night, which I suppose I could have contested. By 1:30, we were in the new room, and they already put us on Lightning Lane entries for Guardians on Saturday and Ride of The Resistance at DHS on Sunday, plus additional any-ride Lightning Lanes for each day. The front desk folks were very kind, and committed to getting us back to bed quickly. I'm gonna come back to that though...

I didn't sleep well. I was so tired by the time I got up. Ken was already messing around at Epcot, and we were going to meet him later, but we had a 1:30 date at the Three Bridges venue for Sangria University. Simon went to the pool for a bit, and I got some counter service chicken tenders at the hotel. I actually quite enjoy Disney's tenders, which are at least of a uniform quality, and what they serve on cruise line.

Sangria University started largely as I expected... mixology only with a combination of wine, spirits, fruit juice and fruit. There are regulations in some places about what you can call sangria, but in the US, that's the general condition. The festivities started with a big wrought iron "tree" of glasses with four different combinations, that were delicious, if a little diluted from the melted ice. They also had a plate of tortilla chips and guac, and a plate of fruit. In the first half-hour, the "professor" explained the origins of sangria, and what we were drinking. The last part would involve getting our order to any custom combination of ingredients, and then a photo and certificate.

But 45-minutes after that initial bit, the bartender had yet to visit us to get an order of stuff we would dump into glasses and make ourselves. She wasn't anywhere near us, and we were frankly a little anxious about the time that had passed since we last saw our kid. For any bar activity, approaching an hour without a beverage was also not ideal. Diana approached the guy at the bar about a compromise, and he gave us a business card inviting us to come back that night for the last drink. This experience was a let down. I'm gonna come back to that though...

I was also getting anxious because Ken was pounding margaritas at Epcot solo, and he was in town in part to see me. We fetched Simon from the pool, got him dressed, and headed to Epcot. Even this was slightly difficult in terms of expectations, because while every other park showed next departure times, Epcot did not. Fifteen minutes later, an Epcot bus arrived.

We again stopped at Connections to get Simon some food, met up with Ken, and again the guest services folks helped us align our Guardians times so we could all ride together. Got "Disco Inferno" again, but still, it's such a great ride. For whatever reason, statistically unlikely as it is, we were further toward the back of the train again. I will assert that the ride is more aggressive back there, which I had not anticipated. There's a bunnyhop that you go over backwards in particular that has pretty hard float on it. It's so good, there's nothing like it, and I don't care what coaster enthusiasts think.

Again we were closing in on 5:30 for the first Living Colour show, and Ken was planning to see another friend in town that night, preferably with a shower (it was 93+ all weekend, with significant humidity). The first show was again fantastic, and this one also focused largely on Vivid songs. After the show, we wandered back to Morocco, where again I scored some sangria and a chicken kabob. Diana and Simon crossed the lagoon on the boat, and met up with us. We all said our goodbyes to Ken, and while Diana and Simon went to ride Remy, I went back for the second set.

The second set was intense, and the crowd was into it. They performed "Pride" and "Bi" back to back, which I imagine would cause our silly governor to lose his mind, especially at a Disney park. The highlight though was that Glover wandered out through the crowd during "Cult" and right into the midway. He got to the turkey leg stand and ordered one, and by the time he got back for the guitar solo, they had it ready backstage. He brought it out and finished the song. This time they went from "Cult" right into a cover of "Should I Stay Or Should I Go," the classic from The Clash. It was a very metal take, and another example of the crazy changes that the band executes flawlessly. I ducked into the American Adventure for some air conditioning between shows, as it was oppressively hot. The third show had the energy of a finale in an arena show. They again ended on "Should I Stay," but extended it with the kind of rock band noise that you expect in an arena. It was so loud compared to anything I've ever seen in that venue. And since we don't get a lot of great tours through here, I was happy to experience it.

The band came out to meet people after the show, and this time, the ushers seemed to not force people out as they had earlier, presumably since it was the last show. I however did not want to get caught up in the post-fireworks exodus, so I hauled ass all the way to the bus depot. For the record, it took me 20 minutes from the stage to the bus, which was pulling away as I got there, but I flagged it down and got on. Just a hair over a mile total.

After returning to my room, Diana and I headed back to Three Bridges to collect our final sangria. On that short walk, we encountered the obnoxious former neighbors who were partying the night before. Clearly, there had been no consequence for their behavior. This is deeply troubling to me. I'm wandering into some generalization, I'm sure, but it feels like bad behavior no longer has any consequences. It feels so gross that the best solution for the previous night's issue was to move my family and leave it at that, even though we certainly didn't do anything wrong.

Earlier, I emailed the food and beverage manager whose name was on the card, offering feedback about the timing of the Sangria University while praising the staff for what they provided, and he offered to refund the fee, which is not what I was fishing for, since we would end up getting all the drinks (if not the diploma). When we arrived, the night manager invited us to sit in some cozy chairs by the water and relax, and brought us our drinks. Unlike those from the class, these had not been sitting with the ice melting, and they were very generous pours. They were delicious. She came back shortly thereafter with two more, different recipes that she wanted us to try. They were very kind and I largely forgot about the earlier experience. This is the thing that Disney does pretty well if given the time and opportunity, and you're not a "Karen" about things. I know these folks work hard, and I appreciate that.

On Sunday, we committed to a short visit to Hollywood Studios, and it was the hottest of the three days. The first thing I wanted to do was have pizza at Pizzie Rizzo. I know that these frozen things are not exactly "good," but for some reason I like to have one, maybe once a year. You crave what you crave. Simon had recently sucked down a giant doughnut at the hotel, so he went about his business doing the bounty hunter stuff in the Star Wars area.

Rise of The Resistance was awesome as usual, despite the Kylo scene broken near the end (a video bit replaces the animatronic, so if you don't know, you wouldn't know anything was different). A little disappointed that they still haven't restored the movement of the big guns. I felt like that gave a huge sense of scale to it that you otherwise only get in the AT-AT room. We also did Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway, which I always enjoy. We ended on Toy Story Mania, and called it a day.

Overall, it was a solid weekend, with good surprises, and some things that were not optimal. I think though, next time I decide we should do an on-property thing, it should not be in the middle of summer. I forgot how hot it gets. Granted, this was largely to facilitate the concert viewing, but it was hot.


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